the one about grass-fed steak

The boys finished dinner at 6:08 pm and Ryan and I were supposed to be out the door by 10 past for our date.

I did a quick mental inventory of my appearance:

- a baggy Pink Floyd tank top with a brown stain on the chest (It was either poop, mud, or chocolate pudding. Two of those semi-solids are whatever, and the other one is also whatever, but in a secret shame kind of way, like at home it's whatever I'll change when I can, but with people it's like now I understand what I am and I shall return to the hills from whence I came.)

- cutoffs that fit this morning but after getting the boys in and out of the pool twice, and in and out of the bath twice, not so much. #ElephantButt

- flip-flops, no makeup, dirty hair bordering on clumps

I looked at the clock, which ticked to 6:09.

ALL RIGHT PEOPLE. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.



First priority, eyeliner. Pro tip: When you're looking greasy and shitty, the more eyeliner you pile on, the more your profound filth looks like a choice.

exhibit a
this piece of shit

caught here at the moment he was thinking

wait
she was recording that?

wait
she has visible bruises on her face?

why is she being
so mean to me?


In 3 minutes (I'm a wizard, not Jesus), I pulled on jeans, flailed my body into a cute top, WAIT back it up, gotta change the bra for this cute top, OK BACK IN THE CUTE TOP, then attempted to untangle a five-stranded necklace from the bottom of my suitcase before temporarily greying out - which always happens when I engage in fine-motor fiddling under the gun - and then coming to and saying "fuck it I'll grab a scarf."

Why did I do this?

I was going to a movie.

I was going to sit in the dark for 2 hours next to a man who had a front-row seat to my vagina when a blood-and-slime covered baby head was bulging out of it during childbirth.

TWICE.

Why did I stop for eyeliner? Why did I change out of my poop shirt?

My husband was wearing almost exactly what I'd had on - shorts, a t-shirt, and flip-flops - and he was ready to roll.

Why did I feel obligated to change? Why did I not even CONSIDER not changing?

___

Whenever I think about the mandatory physical perfection of women, I always think about Amy Poehler and Tina Fey's brilliant bit at the Golden Globes:





If you're a mom, all you have to be is an attentive parent who doesn't worry about vain things like gray roots or shorts that fit. Sounds easy, right?

WRONG.

You ALSO have to package yourself in a way that is practical, stylish, appealing, relatable, sexy, demure, funny, but not too funny, and smart, but again, eeeasy girl.

You have to select your LOOK in a way that clearly transmits to the entire world what kind of dame, hussy, virgin, bitch, power player, hippie love mama, or All-American-girl-next-door you are today, based on your grooming, personal accessories, choice of apparel, body language, and general demeanor.

But quickly!

But flawlessly.

But without WORKING on it!

But SLAY.

But in TWO FUCKING MINUTES!

And women everywhere said:

NO PROBLEM! 
I CAN BE EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME WITH NO RESOURCES! 
I HAVE LITERALLY BEEN TRAINING FOR THIS MY ENTIRE LIFE!
But then when I do that, you'll recognize how fucking impossible this is to sustain, right?
Like, once I have my foot in the door, I can relax and not have to be everything to everyone anymore, right?

And the whole world said:

Actually, no. You're in, bitch. You're in this for the rest of your life. You will have to fight your way out with deep therapy and numerous subscriptions to feminist podcasts that at first you'll think are super extreme but after a year or so you'll go looking for harder stuff. You and I both know you're not doing therapy and feminista podcasts, so go put on some blush before you drive me to the airport at 4 am.

If you take too much time to get ready for your date, then you're neglecting your children, and then the drug addiction will be your fault, really.

But if you don't take enough time to primp and prettify, then you're murdering the romance in your marriage. And then the affair will be your fault, really.

I wish I were exaggerating, but as I pulled on my jeans and dashed down the hall with enough time to snuggle my kids before running out the door with Ryan, I actually thought, "OK, I did it, my husband still knows I'm sexy and my kids still know I love them. OK. OK. Whew. So glad I brought those jeans."

You and I both know it's not about the jeans.

If I believed that a single wardrobe choice could actually impact my family's health and happiness, that would be placing an insane amount of faith in the ancient mystical powers wielded by a single pair of jeans. And these were GAP jeans, people. That's muggle denim. Solid construction, zero wizardry.

Of course I know that my jeans aren't all-powerful.

It's just that I don't trust other people to know that, too.

___

I don't personally care about pleasing strangers with my appearance.

But I DO care about my self-worth, 
and my self-worth is determined by my appearance and its ability to please strangers.

If it's hard to wrap your mind around that (Hi Greg, thanks for reading this far!) let me put it another way: You might not care about the quality of Iowa pastureland, but you give a damn about the flavor of your steak, right?

The thing is that the flavor of your steak depends on the quality of pastureland, so even if you don't give a fuck about grass, you kind of do, actually, by default, if you want a good grass-fed steak.

I don't care what strangers think of me, but I DO care that I have value in the world that strangers inhabit. I care about that nice juicy steak, which means like it or not I have to spend every day keeping my grass super grassy so people will give me steak.

When I say, "I'm going to put myself together," so that I can go out, I don't parse my word choice very carefully most of the time. But think about it. I'm putting myself together.

I put. My SELF. Together.

I  choose my appearance and by extension my identity, value, and treatment by strangers. I build a brand statement out of my self. I invented this Katie, custom, for THIS trip to the mall.

I do what all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't do, and I do it every damn day most of the time without even thinking about it. Not because I give a fuck about grass, but because if you want the steak you have to care about grass, and if you want to be visible and valuable as a lady, you have to care about your appearance.



I don't care about what strangers think of me. 

But I am both comforted and humiliated 
by the way that my self-worth is determined by what strangers think of my appearance, 
and how they treat me as a result.

Let's return to the steak metaphor - You care about steak but not grass, but caring about steak means you HAVE to care a little about grass, right?

Now imagine if you had to learn a shitload about grass, farm grass, fertilize grass before you could even get a whiff of that steak. Imagine if you had to spend your time and money tending to grass, making it look just right, before anyone will let you glance at a cut of meat.

On the one hand, that's a pretty simple formula to get some fine-ass steak, right? You have one job: make sure that grass is vibrant and swishy and sweet, and ring the bell, boys, it's dinner time.

But imagine that wasn't your one job. Imagine if you had like 5 jobs, including raising your children and your actual fucking paycheck job. All of a sudden this grass shit starts to get pretty tedious.

Imagine if, despite the baby pics on your desk and your actual personality that consisted of other interests, people started to know you as "the grass guy."

Imagine if one day, after all that grass which you traded for all that steak, you had a moment of clarity where you remembered that you DON'T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT GRASS, but now your entire identity is based on this grass that you're still growing and tending and spending your money and time on even though you don't give even a single sliver of a fuck about it.

That's kind of embarrassing, right? Kind of diminishing? Are you starting to hate yourself? Starting to feel small? Starting to wonder how much you actually care about steak? I know just how you feel.

It is comforting to know that if you hike up your boobs people will be happy to see you at Chili's, and you'll probably get some free jalapeno poppers.

But it is fucking embarrassing to change your clothes 30 times in search of your self-worth. No matter what you end up wearing, you know it's just a costume.


I don't care about what strangers think of me. 

But I do care about living my one and only precious life 
with my health and self-worth intact.

Imagine if your grass wasn't quite up to snuff and nobody even offered you a menu at the steakhouse.

Whether or not you care about grass, when people treat your grass like currency that you can exchange for steak, it becomes your fucking currency, right? When nobody's buying your grass, you feel pretty shitty, right?

Hear this truth: If I ever have to bolt out the door wearing shitty clothes and the underwear that gives me muffin top, all day long I'll be questioning my worth as a human being. Straight up, bad underwear RUINS my day. It sounds shallow until you remember that IT IS NOT BECAUSE I GIVE A FUCK ABOUT MY UNDERWEAR.

It's because I am now spending my mental energy on whether I qualify as human within the confines of this too-small elastic band, instead of on how I can move my career to the next level, or how to connect with my husband, or whether I am actually happy, or how I can strengthen my friendships.

Imagine if growing your grass hurt your body. Imagine if the fertilizer you used increased your chance of getting cancer. Imagine if the blades of grass cut and squeezed your feet while you worked.

Imagine if you kept charging more and more grass farming supplies on your credit card and you got the statement at the end of the month and you were like $3,000, FUCK I don't even CARE ABOUT GRASS!

The next logical statement would be "... and I don't give a FUCK about STEAK anymore, either."

That's the thing. Sooner or later most of us have a moment when we remember (not realize, we realized it a long time ago) that no matter how much we love steak, that shit will never love us back.

No matter how hard I work to be pleasing, I'll never have pleased anyone to completion, right? "Pleasing" is not a state the one acquires. Teeth yellow and wander askew and you think about spending the money you set aside to travel to Spain on Invisalign instead - better to be pretty in Wal-Mart, or slightly snaggle-toothed in Barthelona?

This is not an easy subject to wrap up neatly. I'm in the middle of this - I've had no epiphanies here.

All I wanted to say was I went on this date and I wasted 3 minutes dressing myself to earn passage through a movie theater in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.

And I wanted to tell any gentlemen out there who make jokes about how long it takes women to get ready for a date:

Dude, I understand that it can be annoying to have to wait an extra half an hour for your date/wife/partner/whatever.

Remember that it's not about the clothes.

She doesn't care about looking cute; she cares about being valued. She isn't the one who picked her physical appearance to value - the world picked that for her and she has very little choice but to play along.

She's suiting up in there for whoever she needs to be to allow strangers to hear her voice and see her face. She's trying to crack the safe to get off with the good opinions of the strangers she hasn't met yet tonight. THAT SHIT TAKES TIME.

When she does emerge, the only acceptable thing for you to say is:

Ready to go? 
Great! 
So tell me, what do you want to achieve in the next 3 months and how can I help you get there?

Seriously, that's the ONLY thing you should say.

If you want to vary that question you can ask for goals 6 months out, or say "wonderful" instead of "great." Although "wonderful" sounds a little passive-aggressive, honestly.

And I mostly wanted to send this message out to the women to say:

If you feel this way, I do too.

You're not shallow.

Or, you know, you might be a little shallow, but not for caring about whether the world sees you.

And if you do ever get out there on date night in a poop shirt?

Girl, I'll SEE you.




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